It had been a surprisingly slow week in Gotham. No major cases, and the minor ones were being handled competently by Dick, Barbara, or Tim. Batman leaned back in his chair and exhaled. A nice slow week. No serial killers, no reservoir-poisonings, no armies of undead.
It seemed ungrateful in the extreme to be a little bored.
As he pushed himself to his feet to go check the Batmobile’s engine again, the computer beeped: an incoming transmission. Frowning, Batman pressed the button that would open the channel.
“Batman,” rasped a voice: electronically distorted, genderless and eerie. “I have a little…offer for you. One you’re unlikely to turn down.”
Batman leaned forward. ”How did you find this number?”
“That’s not the question. The question is, how will you find me?”
The line went dead.
Scowling at the monitor, Batman ran the voice through every voice-analyzing tech he had, coming up with nothing. Which of his rogues had that sounded like? Could this be a new villain, someone with hacking skills?
It took him thirty minutes of work before he cracked the hidden message tucked between the sine waves of the voice.
Moments later, the Batmobile was racing out of the cave and on its way to the location the message was pointing him to.
There was nothing at the entrance to Robinson Park, but as Batman pulled up, the pay phone on the sidewalk began to ring. Batman picked it up. “Clever, aren’t you? Perhaps you’re finally an intellect worthy of me. But we can’t be sure until you find me and see what exactly I have to offer you.”
A quick scattered sequence of notes, and then dead air once more.
Musical notes. Bruce ran through a dozen possibilities in his mind, disassembling and re-assembling the notes until he realized what song they went to. Which theater was playing Cats?
Humming “Macavity the Mystery Cat” under his breath, Batman took off toward the Gotham Apollo.
There was no phone call there, but a bemused attendant handed Batman a note. You’re even faster than I expected, Dark Knight. A confrontation between us is inevitable, I suppose. I await it with tremulous anticipation.
It was a simple enough thing to analyze the paper and the ink, although it was clear the message had been written by a proxy. High-quality 100% cotton paper; deep red-orange ink. Vermilion.
Batman felt a triumphant smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.
An hour later, Bruce Wayne strolled into the Cinnabar Club on Cotton Street, dressed in a sharp suit with an equally sharp smile. He walked up to the man in the corner, sat down next to him, and murmured, “Did you think you could deceive me forever?”
Clark Kent put the menu down and cast him an affectionate look. ”When did you figure it out?”
“Partway through the second phone call.”
Clark pulled a disappointed face. ”Only forty-five minutes of mystery? That’s hardly going to make a dent in a boring night.”
“It’s forty-five minutes better than anyone else has managed,” Bruce pointed out. ”Besides which, I’m hoping to find other ways to entertain myself tonight.”
“Ah yes,” Clark said, steepling his fingers. ”That offer of mine.”
Bruce leaned closer. ”I’m waiting breathlessly.”
“I was thinking dinner, then perhaps a play, concluded by a stroll through Robinson Park in the moonlight. What do you think? Too boring?”
Bruce shook his head. ”You? Never.”